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Int Rev Cytol. 1999;190:1-59.

Organellar RNA polymerases of higher plants.

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Institute of Biology, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany.


The nuclear genome of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana contains a small gene family consisting of three genes encoding RNA polymerases of the single-subunit bacteriophage type. There is evidence that similar gene families also exist in other plants. Two of these RNA polymerases are putative mitochondrial enzymes, whereas the third one may represent the nuclear-encoded RNA polymerase (NEP) active in plastids. In addition, plastid genes are transcribed from another, entirely different multisubunit eubacterial-type RNA polymerase, the core subunits of which are encoded by plastid genes [plastid-encoded RNA polymerase (PEP)]. This core enzyme is complemented by one of several nuclear-encoded sigma-like factors. The development of photosynthetically active chloroplasts requires both PEP and NEP. Most NEP promoters show certain similarities to mitochondrial promoters in that they include the sequence motif 5'-YRTA-3' near the transcription initiation site. PEP promoters are similar to bacterial promoters of the -10/-35 sigma 70 type.

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